Movie Review – The Death King {Der Todesking} (1990)

The Death King (Der Todesking)
Directed by Jorg Buttgereit
Courtesy of Cult Epics & CAV Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1990
Blu-ray Release Date: June 9, 2015

the death king

Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing director Jorg Buttgereit’s film, NEKROMANTIK. Although I loved it, I mentioned in that review the film would not be for everyone, and the subject matter is considered taboo by many. Buttgereit followed-up his controversial hit with THE DEATH KING, a segmented movie about suicide and death, where each individual piece takes place on a different day of the week. Each story is also prefaced by showing the rapid decomposition of a human body over a period of seven days. While this film might not sound as shocking as its predecessor, it is another well made jaunt into the bizarre, and I am glad I got to check it out.

If you are not familiar with THE DEATH KING, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Cult Epics:

Cult Epics presents the third release in the series Corpse F##king Art; Jorg Buttgereit’s powerful masterpiece Der Todesking (aka The Death King), made in-between Nekromantik (1987) and Nekromantik 2 (1991). Seven stories on Death and Suicide, each taking place on a different day of the week, enframed by the decomposition of a human body. Warning: extremely graphic.

Der Todesking, available for the first time on Blu-ray, is presented Uncut and Uncensored in a new High Definition transfer, including the bonus Shockumentary Corpse F##king Art; an in-depth look behind the scenes of Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2 and Der Todesking.

THE DEATH KING is shot well, in Buttgereit’s artistic yet straight-forward style, and the film looks good as a whole. I’m particularly impressed with the decomposing body scenes. I’m not sure how many days it took for the compositional breakdown to occur, but it looks mesmerizing nonetheless.

Surprisingly, there are not many special effects in this one. I was expecting many, given the subject matter, however we only get a few. Those we get to see are done well, however, and I have to give credit to the production team. Of particular note is the graphic castration of a prisoner; this scene is horrifyingly realistic and made me cringe.

I have to confess a couple of the segments in THE DEATH KING didn’t make sense to me. The Thursday piece is just video shots of a bridge in Germany with names that flash across the screen. I am assuming the names list those who jumped from the bridge, but that is never explained. Likewise, the Sunday segment is just a man in his bed, crying and banging his head. I understand the desolation and loneliness this is supposed to convey, but it didn’t work for me.

But those two complaints aside, THE DEATH KING is a dark look into realism that fans of NEKROMANTIK will certainly want to undertake. Be warned, however: this is another film that won’t be for everybody. If you are easily offended, you might want to pass this one by. But if you can stomach it, you’re in for a surrealistic journey you won’t soon forget. The special edition Blu-ray contains several bonuses, including:

* New Director’s Approved HD transfer (taken from the original 16mm negative)
* New Introduction by Jorg Buttgereit (2015)
* Audio Commentary by Jorg Buttgereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen
* The Making of Der Todesking
* Still Photo Gallery
* JB HD Trailers
* Corpse F##king Art (Documentary) 1983, 60 Minutes, HD transfer
* Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
* The first 3000 Blu-ray copies include Collectible Artwork
* 25th Anniversary (Silver embossed) Slipcover and Corpse F##king Art Postcard

MSB

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